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Facebook Q&A Session 9th March

 

Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 9th March - Your horticultural questions answered.


Click here to view details of our previous Q&A sessions.





Name: Sarah Griffiths

Question: Hi, have a question for sue please, I want to plant out a cherry tree in the garden as adore the blossom and also want a mimosa for the fragrance please, my garden gets very hot, has dry soil and sun almost all day. Any tips on variety to buy please? I do like the prunus "pink perfection" variety. Thanks very much.

Answer: Hi Sarah. Cherry ‘Pink Perfection makes a lovely spring flowering tree and will enjoy a position in full sun. Mimosa (I assume that you are referring to the yellow flowered Acacia dealbata) is ideal for a sheltered sunny spot too, so these are both good choices for your garden. The sun and heat should not be a problem, particularly for the Mimosa which thrives in these conditions, but you will need to improve the soil if it is very dry. Dig in plenty of well rotted manure or other organic matter prior to planting. This will act like a sponge in the soil and help to retain moisture at the roots of your plants. You will also need to make sure that you keep them well watered throughout their first year while they are establishing. Once established they will both be able to cope on their own during dry conditions so you will only need to water during prolonged periods of drought. You can also help them by applying a thick mulch in spring while the ground is moist - but care not to mound it up around the stems of the plants as this will can cause them to decay over time. Hope that helps Sarah.


Name: Carole Spencer

Question: I got the perennial collections A & B. Thankyou. I've potted them up and put them into my cold greenhouse as I live in the highlands of Scotland. How long should I keep them in there before I plant them out. Also, I'm keeping the Geraniums and Busy Lizzy potted up on the windowsill in a cool room. Do I keep them inside until all frost has passed, or can I put them in my greenhouse when I put the heater on mid-March? Thanks.

Answer: Hi Carole. Your perennial collections are all perfectly hardy but bareroot perennials can be susceptible to rotting if the soil becomes too wet. So your greenhouse is the best place for them for a few more weeks until the worst of the cold, wet weather has passed. Once spring arrives in the Highlands you can move the pots to a nursery area outdoors. As you have potted them up, it is best to wait until they have rooted into their pots before planting them out in the garden. You can check this by looking underneath the pot to see whether roots are showing through the holes in the bottom.

Your Geraniums and Busy Lizzies will need to be kept frost free so your windowsill is ideal at the moment. You can certainly move them to a heated greenhouse in March as they will benefit from the improved light conditions, but you must make sure that the thermostat is set to keep the temperature above well above 5C (10C would be preferable). It sounds as though your garden will be really colourful this summer!


Name: Lorna Jane Morley-Medd

Question: Help! My new Bay has suddenly developed brown patches that have spread along the veins/ribs of each and every leaf :0( my last one here died, and I'm wondering if there's something in the air that could be affecting them? I used a totally different pot, fresh compost, everything :0(( I love Bay, but might have to put it at the allotment - although then popping out for a leaf or 2 would take 20 minutes!! Thanks,

Answer: Oh dear Lorna - It sounds as though your Bay tree is struggling. The symptoms that you describe are most likely to be a physiological problem rather than a disease. Blackening of foliage that starts between the veins of the leaf is often related to waterlogging. Check the drainage holes at the bottom of the container and feel the compost to see whether the soil is too wet. If so, you willneed repot it into better drained soiled - I would recommend using John Innes No. 3 and stand the container on pot feet or bricks to unsure that water drains from the pot adequately.

The other thought that springs to mind is frost or wind damage - both of which can cause the leaves to become dessicated and turn brown. This normally affects the leaves at the top of the plant as these are more exposed than foliage lower down or within the canopy which is more protected. Move your bay to a sheltered position against a warm house wall during the coldest months to protect it. I hope that something here rings a bell with you - if not then it would be useful to see a picture of the damage in order to make a more accurate diagnosis. Best of luck Lorna.


Name: Daniel Stewart Marshall

Question: Will my apple tree be all right because you delivered it and I planted it and it came into bud, and all the leaves fell off in the frost?

Answer: Hi Daniel. Don’t worry - your apple is perfectly hardy. Frost will often cause early foliage to drop but it will produce new foliage as the weather improves. You can throw some horticultural fleece over the plant on frosty nights to give it a little more protection if you want to but this isn’t essential.


Name: Corrina O'Flaherty Seddon

Question: This is the second year in a row that my Lady Boothby Fuschia has survived the worst of the winter only to die at the first sign of spring! They are in a trough type container which I brought to the back of the house and covered the roots with fleece to try and protect it this winter, but it made no difference. The warmer weather arrived and I noticed they had died, completely and seemingly very quickly too as they had seemed fine the week before. They hadn't dried out or anything else obvious either. What am I doing wrong? I love them through the summer and autumn but don't want to waste money buying them again this year unless they have a good chance of making it through the winter. Thanks for your help.

Answer: Hello Corrina. It’s a shame that you keep losing your Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’. I’m afraid I can’t explain why it would die after the worst of the winter has passed unless you have had a sudden very cold spell that followed some unseasonably warm weather. Have you investigated the stems at the base of the plant? They may have died back further up the stem but if the roots and the base of the stem are still alive then the plant may still regrow. Many plants are much hardier when grown in the ground than they are in containers, because the larger mass of soil that surrounds the roots helps to insulate them from the cold. The top growth of fuchsias is also particularly prone to dying back in winter so it’s best not to prune until late spring when the new buds begin to swell.

As you are growing yours in a container it might be best to treat it as a half hardy variety and move it to a shed or cold greenhouse during winter. If this is not possible then try wrapping the container with bubble wrap next year, and use your fleece to cover protect the stems.


Name: Michelle Campbell-Scott

Question: I bought some Vivaldi seed potatoes from T&M last week. I have got them chitting, but the shoots are coming through green, not creamy white. Do you think they will be OK to plant? Thanks!

Answer: Don’t worry Michelle. Your potatoes are perfectly normal. ‘Chitts’ will often start green and become whiter as they grow and become subjected to light.


Name: Jackie Mason

Question: Sue, I have had a wonderful display of daffodils for well over 20 years. This year most of them are blind. Any thoughts?

Answer: That’s a shame Jackie - you must be really disappointed. Blindness is a common problem with daffodils and can be caused for lots of reasons. Here are a few suggestions for you.

Did they die back prematurely last year due to dry soils conditions, or did you defoliate them early? Early defoliation/ die back can leave the bulbs undernourished and therefore unable to produce flower buds for the following year. If this is the case then your bulbs will appreciate a good feed this spring, before allowing them to die back naturally.

Overcrowding can also cause blindness after some years. If you have noticed your display declining gradually over the past few years then this may be the cause. If your clumps of daffodils have become congested then you can lift them and separate out the individual bulbs before replanting at a wider spacing. However you need to make sure that you replant them at least 10cm (4") deep as shallow planting is one of the most common causes of blindness. Sometimes even the weather can affect the way that bulbs flower. An early warm spell can cause the bulbs to sprout in late winter, and if followed by a sudden cold spell, the stems can be stunted and fail to flower.

Finally, there are a few pests and diseases that cause poor flowering and blindness. For example, Narcissus Bulb Fly larvae eat out the inside of the bulb leaving a mush of brown excrement in its place. Lift a clump of bulbs to investigate whether this is the problem. If so then you may have to face losing some of your daffodil bulbs as there is little that can be done to control this pest. Narcissus can also suffer from viruses which reduce flowering, however these can normally be spotted by distorted or yellow streaked foliage. As with most viruses there are no effective controls available. Hopefully this is not the case with your daffodils, Jackie. I hope that this gives you a few suggestions as to why they are not performing well this year.


Name: Simon Gibbins

Question: Please could you help? How far apart do you grow gooseberry bushes?.Thanks.

Answer: Hello Simon. You can plant your gooseberries at a distance of about 1.5m (5’) apart. If you take a look at the ‘How to grow’ and ‘Aftercare’ tabs on our gooseberry product pages this should give you most of the information you need to grow a good crop. Best of luck.


Name: Steve Linden Wyatt

Question: A question for Sue on Friday: I am trying to root a rose. I have cut the stem at a 45o angle and dipped it in some rooting gel. I have put it in a pot with compost, covered in a clear bag and kept the soil moist. How long will it take for roots to appear?

Answer: Hi Steve. It’s good to hear that you are having a go at propagating roses. If you are able to provide bottom heat from a heat mat then your rose cuttings may root in as little as 3 or 4 weeks. Don’t try to pull them out of the compost to check for roots as this will certainly damage them. Remain patient and wait until you start to see new foliage developing as this is normally a clear sign that they are beginning to produce roots. Leave them to root into their pots so that they have a well developed rootball before planting them outside in the autumn.


Name: Lesley Rawlinson

Question: I'm after some advice please, at the bottom of my garden I have 3 blossom trees and grass will not grow beneath. The soil is very dry. We've tried barks etc but it always ends up looking untidy to me. Can you recommend a low growing, hopefully flowering or evergreen to grown under the trees in this area? Many thanks.

Answer: Hello Lesley. There are few plants that will survive in very dry soil beneath mature trees. The dense canopy prevents light and rainfall reaching the ground, while the tree roots will quickly out-compete other plants for moisture. If the soil is particularly dry and compacted then you need to start off by improving it. Dig in plenty of organic matter such as well rotted manure or compost.

The plants that you choose will need to be pretty tough. Start planting them from the edge of the canopy rather than trying to make them grow in deep shade at the base of the trunk. Try hypericum which is capable of coping in most garden situations and will quickly spread to form good ground cover once established. Woodland bulbs such as Bluebells and Cyclamen hederafolium will also cope well. However these plants will all need deep watering throughout their first growing season to ensure that they establish. I would also recommend that you spread a thick mulch of organic matter around the planting area while the soil is moist in spring to help retain moisture in the ground.


Name: Corinne Surkitt

Question: Sue, I planted hyacinths for the first time this year in various containers and pots in the garden, the leaves have been up for weeks and they are now just starting to flower but I’m quite disappointed. Rather than being as per my usual picture of hyacinths spikes full of individual flowers tightly packed together creating a ball effect mine are very "gappy" i.e large gaps between individual flowers , they are still quite pretty in their own way but not the great effect I was hoping for - what have I done wrong ?

Answer: You haven’t done anything wrong Corinne. I suspect that they are just a looser headed variety. Do you remember what they were called?